First Steps In Controlling Risks in Senior Living Development

Development is risky.  There is market risk, pricing risk, weather risk, governmental risk factors and perhaps most importantly, development partner risks from team members.  Probably the first two decisions to be made by a developer are a selection of site and selecting who your service partners will be-architect with engineers and general contractor.

The starting point of reducing risks in selecting sites is, of course, understanding if there is a market.  But there are other factors in site selection that impact marketability, including site configuration, visibility from the street, and type of street the site is on.  Another factor in site selection has to do with the physical attributes.  Is it zoned correctly and if so what is the approval process, what are the soils like, are utilities available and affordable, are there wetlands, what is the topography and other factors that will determine how risky and expensive it will be to develop the site.  An engineer can analyze the physical attributes, as can The Douglas Company, as part of its efforts to control development risk.

The other of the first two decisions is who are the team members going to be?  Culture is a fuzzy term that is important.  Do your architect and contractor share the same values that you have?  Do they listen to you and understand your needs?  How busy are they?  Do they have the capable staff they are willing to commit?  What are their processes for controlling risk and cost?  And possibly the most important question, do they have significant experience in this type of project?  This last question is more important than it seems in senior living construction.  Senior living construction is a hybrid of residential and commercial construction.  It requires the cost-effectiveness of multi-family construction with the sophistication of commercial systems, in some ways paralleling those of hospitals.  It’s a healthcare facility, with all the codes, regulations, and inspections related to that.  Most general contractors don’t understand the challenges and struggle to succeed in this type of construction.  Many architects and contractors believe that because they are professionals, they can design and build senior living projects.  But our experience is that the best designs come from architects that dedicate their businesses to cutting edge design and construction techniques for senior living.

Peter Douglas, P.E.
The Douglas Company

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